When the 2011-12 season starts, Dallas Stars
captain Brenden Morrow
will be just 9 points from the 500th of his career.
If you weren't aware of Morrow's impending accomplishment, don't feel bad. Neither was he.
"I had no clue how close I was. That's pretty cool," Morrow told NHL.com. "I think I scored my 200th goal last year. I don't know where the puck is. ... I was happy to get one. I was happy to play a game. I was happy to get a game in the NHL, and it's just been gravy since then."
Long history for Morrow, Carbonneau
Having the in-laws over for dinner can be a stressful process, and the key to good cooking can lie with the condiments. For Brenden Morrow
, the seasoning hasn't just been the key to a successful meal -- it may have been the key to a successful career, too.
"I remember salt and pepper shakers on the dining room table one night, just kind of going over different positions on the ice, of killing penalties," Morrow said. "That's kind of his forte."
The he to which Morrow is referring is his father-in-law, Guy Carbonneau
. A three-time Stanley Cup-winner, Carbonneau was Morrow's teammate in Dallas when Morrow was a rookie in 1999-2000. Eleven years later, they still remain close -- Morrow is married to Carbonneau's daughter, Anne-Marie.
These days Morrow said the pair is less likely to talk X's and O's when they get together -- family trumps business for both. Moreover, as a team captain about to start his 12th NHL season, Morrow doesn't really need that much guidance, though he admits he's still learning, even at 32.
While Morrow is working to bring the Stars back to the playoffs, Carbonneau, who was fired as coach of the Montreal Canadiens
in March 2009, currently works as a television hockey analyst with RDS and is president of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Even when both were in the NHL, the opportunities to talk were rare, as injuries caused Morrow to miss all but one game the Stars played against Montreal during Carbonneau's three seasons as coach of the Habs. It's worth noting, however, that Morrow scored a goal against Carbonneau's team in his one opportunity.
"I'm sure at some point there was something said," Morrow said, "but I hope I won the game, too. I can't really remember. There would have been some bragging rights on the line."
Dallas did win the game, 4-1. That Morrow scored and got the win might be indication that the next time they get dinner, it will be the son-in-law breaking out the salt and pepper.
-- David Kalan
That Morrow is unaware of the milestones that dot the course of a productive 11-season NHL career really is no surprise when you speak to him, because there's the obvious sense that after 749 regular-season games, there only is one game that ever really is on his mind -- the last one. And as Dallas started training camp, that last game on Morrow's mind is one that defined the Stars' 2010-11 season.
And it may weigh heavily on the next one.
The Stars had a chance to make the playoffs on the final day of the season. All they needed to do was get a regulation or overtime win against the Minnesota Wild
The Stars lost 5-3 that night and spent a third straight postseason watching from home. It's the longest postseason drought since the team moved to Texas in 1993, and ties the longest in franchise history, 1973-76 when they were the Minnesota North Stars.
"Time heals all wounds, I guess," Morrow said. "It's been a couple of long summers and they aren't easy, so it's something that I think eats you up a little bit. Hopefully everyone -- it eats them all up and gets them motivated and ready to prepare to get back to where we want to be."
While it's easy to let your mind dwell on a point here or there that was lost in a shootout in November or February, Morrow insists his doesn't.
"My wife's does," he said. "I don't. By then you're just devastated. You just lost the game. You kind of think about different shifts, or if I would have hit the net or shot it here or done something. You think about that game, but I don't look back on months prior, if we would have done something different. You're too simply -- I think I am anyway -- wired that it's just the last two hours that I'm thinking about."
If Morrow hopes to help his team get back to the playoffs, he has to put last season's disappointment completely out of his mind, as nearly a third of the roster for this season will consist of new faces.
"Every team in every year is different," Morrow said. "We have seven new guys coming to our team this year. Some of them have the success of winning the Cup in (Michael) Ryder, and each guy individually had something else happen to him. So to tell them about what we did wrong our last game, that's not doing them any favors. So I think it's start fresh, and each guy that went through that or went through the last season kind of finds their own direction and way to go from there."
Some of those new additions, like Ryder or Radek Dvorak
, will loom large for a team that needs to fill the void left by high-scoring center Brad Richards
, who signed a free-agent deal with the New York Rangers
Even with Richards gone, however, the Stars aren't lacking for talent. Morrow felt his game was much improved last season when he was reunited on the ice with Mike Ribeiro
. Loui Eriksson
had a career-best 73 points and played in the All-Star Game, and in the case of 22-year-old left wing Jamie Benn
, Morrow said he's "just scratching the surface," of his talent.
The biggest cause for optimism, though, might be defenseman Sheldon Souray
. Bringing aboard the three-time All-Star is a gamble, as Souray hasn't appeared in an NHL game in 20 months. However, the 35-year-old still brings his booming shot and the determination to the table.
"Sheldon is in probably the best shape I've seen him," Morrow said. "He's going to be motivated, he's got that big shot at the point, something we haven't had. We have a skilled guy in Ribeiro and Benn, talented guys, (Alex) Goligoski can move the puck, but we don't really have that bomb and I think he's going to open up a lot of space for guys with his shot."
STARS 30 IN 15 RELATED STORIES
If Souray brings the presence to the blue line that Morrow expects, the Stars, a deeper team than they were a season ago, should be in the mix for a postseason spot. A return to the playoffs would prove a potent elixir not just for the fans in Dallas, but for Morrow himself, a player who in the course of his hockey life has become accustomed to winning.
As a rookie with the Stars in 1999-2000, the team went to the Stanley Cup Final, and Dallas missed the playoffs just once in Morrow's first eight seasons. In addition to his NHL resume, he has won championships at nearly every level he has played, including a Memorial Cup, a World Championship, a gold medal at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey and an Olympic gold medal in 2010 in Vancouver.
All that's missing is the Stanley Cup.
Morrow, coming off a season in which he scored a career-high 33 goals, doesn't appear close to retirement, but he makes no bones about winning a championship before he's done.
"My first year, having that taste, going to the Stanley Cup Final, young and naïve, you think it's going to happen every year," he said. "It's something that drives me and it's something that, for sure, when I'm done playing, if I don't have one, I'll have disappointments."
Reach David Kalan at email@example.com.